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NHL announces schedule, new division names (spoiler: one is a scream)

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

Commissioner Gary Bettman officially announced the NHL’s long-awaited realignment. (Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

Minutes after clearing its system of the Olympic negotiation obstruction, the NHL finally got around to releasing its 2013-14 schedule.

More on that in a minute.

First, let’s look at the newly revealed names for the divisions created during the latest round of realignment. No surprise that the league ignored the solution supported by a large percentage of fans who wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to honor some of the game’s all-time greats. Instead, they looked around and saw that every other North American pro circuit uses geographic designations. So that’s what the tag-along NHL did as well. Too bad.

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  • Published On Jul 19, 2013
  • Phoenix Coyotes finally on the move?

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    Martin Hanzal (center) and the Coyotes could be leaving the desert behind as early as the end of this season. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Stories of the Coyotes leaving Phoenix are like tales of Bigfoot: everyone’s heard them, and no one’s believing anything until they see it for themselves.

    Get ready to believe.

    TSN’s Darren Dreger reported during tonight’s Boston-Montreal game that while the NHL is continuing efforts to keep the team in place, a decision to relocate the team could come before the start of the playoffs.

    Dreger said the league will continue to meet with prospective buyers, but time is running out on the market. To be honest, time ran out years ago, but the league has kept the team on life support far beyond the point of common sense.

    It’s notable that the news is coming from Dreger, a reporter whose close connections to the league are well known. If he’s breaking this, someone in the home office wants it out there.

    Quebec City, Seattle and Kansas City would appear to be the most likely destinations, with Quebec City considered the early favorite. Of course, if that happens, it reopens the league’s realignment plans for next season, which means Columbus could possibly be headed back to the Western Conference.

    It’s all speculation at this point, of course. We’ll have more information as it becomes available.

  • Published On Mar 27, 2013
  • NHL realignment plan for 2013-14 approved by Board of Governors

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    The Red Wings and Canadiens will be in the same division for 2013-14

    The Red Wings’ new home in the Eastern Conference will be in a division that houses four of the Original Six teams. (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Even Karl Rove could see this result coming.

    As expected, the NHL’s Board of Governors voted–overwhelmingly, but not unanimously–today to approve a plan to realign the league’s 30 teams into four divisions in an effort to create more geographically stable groupings.

    Despite earlier reports, it appears that the divisions have not yet been named (so Milan Lucic doesn’t have to worry about looking out his window at the Atlantic Ocean while playing in the Central Division).

    In an afternoon conference call, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the names were still a couple weeks away. “We’re hoping to used the names that make it easiest for our fans to conjure up which teams are where,” he added.

    Apparently Gary doesn’t just think hockey has the greatest fans in the world, but also the dumbest.

    Until permanent names are assigned, here is how things have been laid out:

    Read More…

  • Published On Mar 14, 2013
  • NHLPA agrees to NHL realignment for 2013-14

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    The Bruins and Red Wings, both Original Six members, will be divisional rivals under the new plan. (Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    The gang that has made an art out of saying no finally said yes.

    After two weeks of internal discussion and polling its members, the NHL Players’ Association today agreed to go along with the NHL’s proposed realignment plan.

    With one caveat: they reserve the right to reevaluate the plan after the 2014-15 season.

    Fair enough. Their consent allows the NHL to move forward with scheduling the 2013-14 season. It also gives both the league and the member teams the green light to start planning for the changes that are coming.

    And by the summer of 2015, the league may be looking at an expansion program that would require another realignment anyway.

    Anyway, nice to be able to get past this roadblock and focus on the ways this will improve the game moving forward.

  • Published On Mar 07, 2013
  • Top Line: New NHL realignment plan, Blues-Flyers trade coming?, more

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes could move to the Atlantic Division.

    The Blue Jackets and Hurricanes could end up in the Atlantic. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    A guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • So apparently the NHL has dropped the four-conference plan for realignment and has some new ideas on the playoff format. Does it really have to be this difficult, fellas?

    • St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong has been spotted at three of Philadelphia’s last four games. Is veteran Danny Briere his target?

    • The Flyers revealed Tuesday night that Tye McGinn was out with a broken orbital bone. Now the Simon Gagne trade makes a little more sense.

    • The Hobbit could be back on Broadway soon. Mats Zuccarello may rejoin the Rangers after his KHL season is over. He extended it himself yesterday, scoring the game-winning goal for Metallurg Magnitogorsk with four-seconds left on the clock in Game 4 of its playoff series against Salavat Yulaev Ufa.

    • The New Jersey Devils have placed Martin Brodeur on IR, proving that he is human after all. Keith Kinkaid has been recalled, highlighting just how diligent this team should be about exploring the market for a young goalie with real NHL potential.

    • Instead, the Devils are said to be shopping for a top-six forward, with seldom-used defender Henrik Tallinder as the bait. Can just imagine the crowd trying to beat down Lou Lamoriello’s door to make that one happen.

    Read More…

  • Published On Feb 27, 2013
  • Is this what NHL realignment will look like?

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    Will Columbus vs. Detroit be an Eastern Conference matchup next season? [Jay LaPrete/AP]

    Will Columbus vs. Detroit be an Eastern Conference matchup next season? [Jay LaPrete/AP]

    By Allan Muir

    During Hockey Night In Canada’s Hot Stove segment last night, Elliotte Friedman revealed what he says is the NHL’s most recent plan for realigning the league into a four-conference set up.

    At first glance, it makes a lot of sense…especially for a pair of Eastern time zone teams currently trapped in the Western Conference, and a Southeastern club that needs to be shifted west.

    Friedman reported the Detroit Red Wings would move to an eight-team conference with Boston, Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Florida and Tampa Bay.

    The second new Eastern grouping would see the Columbus Blue Jackets move east to join the Rangers, Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, New Jersey and Carolina.

    There also would be two seven-team conferences. One, primarily Central time grouping would see Winnipeg joining Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis and Nashville, while Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, San Jose, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Anaheim would populate the other.

    This wins on so many levels, particularly the move of Detroit to conference one. It reunites four of the Original Six teams. It reignites the old Toronto/Detroit rivalry. And while it would mean extra travel for Florida and Tampa Bay, the plan would bring marquee opponents to these attendance trouble spots on a regular basis.

    Most important, it removes the league’s most onerous travel/TV schedule from one of its cornerstone franchises.

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  • Published On Feb 24, 2013
  • Jets’ owner talks realignment on Hockey Night in Canada

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     The Jets moved from Atlanta after the 2010-11 season but remain in the Southeast Division. (Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images)

    The Jets moved from Atlanta after the 2010-11 season but remain in the Southeast Division. (Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Mark Chipman isn’t a recluse, but the owner of the Winnipeg Jets doesn’t exactly seek out the limelight, either. So his appearance on Hockey Night in Canada Friday was a nice get for the show.

    Host Scott Oake killed a couple minutes chatting with Chipman before he finally got around to the question that matters: realignment. He asked “Jesus of the Prairies” if he thought the team would be in a conference more friendly for travel and for more natural rivalries.

    “Yeah, I’m quite certain that’ll be the case,” said Chipman, who has been deeply involved in the process. “I’m not quite certain how it will line up. I suspect it will be much like what we agreed to a little over a year ago. We’ll be playing down in the Central time zone which we were excited about, not only for the travel, but there was to be a couple of Original 6 teams in that conference. Playing against Minnesota, I think we could develop a really good rivalry as well.”

    The December 2011 plan would have seen the Jets grouped with Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, and Dallas. That proposal was scuttled by the NHLPA, forcing the Jets to remain in the geographically remote Southeast division for this shortened season.

    The NHL and NHLPA are expected to resume talks on realignment next week, with sources suggesting a vote by owners to approve a slightly altered version of the 2011 plan could come as soon as Feb. 25.

  • Published On Feb 15, 2013
  • NHL realignment plan coming

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    The Winnipeg Jets have a long, natural rivalry with the Edmonton Oilers.

    The Jets would love to share a division with natural Canadian rivals such as the Edmonton Oilers. (Terry Lee/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    It’s expected that the long-needed realignment of the NHL’s conferences and divisions will finally be addressed in the next two weeks.

    Details are sketchy, but one thing is clear: Plenty of people will be hacked off no matter how this plays out.

    The league put forth a plan last year that addressed the most obvious issue — Winnipeg being stuck in the Southeast Division after the franchise transferred from Atlanta — but added an unexpected twist: an unbalanced, four-conference set-up designed to enhance geographic rivalries.

    There were critics, of course, but it appeared to be a go for the 2012-13 season…until the NHL Players’ Association crossed its arms, stamped its feet and scuttled the plan, sending its first shot across the league’s bow ahead of last fall’s lockout.

    The PA’s objections at the time were based on playoff inequities created by having two conferences with eight teams and two with seven, and the absence of a mocked-up schedule that would allow the players to consider the ramifications of travel.

    But last week, PA director Donald Fehr told Larry Brooks of the New York Post that he now is willing to play ball. “If they present the same type of four-conference structure but have the information for us to review regarding scheduling and travel, and have a different playoff format that can ameliorate our concerns in that area, we’ll take it from there.”

    The league is thought to be full-speed-ahead on the four-conference plan, with some new tweaks that might soothe the PA. Hard to imagine what those would be though, unless a top-secret branch of elite hockey mathematicians has discovered a new form of division that would allow 30 teams to be split equally among the four conferences.

    Of course, 32 is easily cut into four equal pieces…but the league has told us that expansion isn’t in the short-term plans, so that can’t be it, right? Right?

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  • Published On Feb 14, 2013
  • Top Line: NHL realignment coming, Kari Lehtonen’s save of the year, more

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    Ron Hainsey and Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets

    Defenseman Ron Hainsey, active in NHLPA matters, is keeping tabs on where the Jets may land in realignment. (Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    A guide to this morning’s must-read stories around the NHL.

    • Realignment is the NHL’s “powder keg” but talks are again underway between the league and the NHLPA. The status quo is not an option in Winnipeg, where the Jets expect a move out of the Eastern Conference to happen in time for the 2013-14 season.

    • This man-crush I’m developing for Kari Lehtonen is not an exclusive thing. Watch this stop he made last night on Columbus’ Jack Johnson and join me.

    • The consensus on the P.K. Subban deal? Montreal GM Marc Bergevin emerges as the big winner.

    • Things are getting back to normal in Phoenix. The Coyotes played a strictly disciplined game. Friends and family dotted the stands at Arena. And Chad Johnson stepped up with a 21-save shutout. Wait…who?

    Read More…

  • Published On Jan 29, 2013
  • NHL: The first-half report

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    The Rangers and the Bruins have clearly been the class of the NHL so far. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The NHL’s  regular season is at the halfway point. A number of teams have hit the 41-game mark and the 615th contest of the 1230-game schedule was played on Monday. So here are some things that have struck us so far, in no particular order.

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  • Published On Jan 11, 2012